154 groups urge feds to act on post-BP disaster health crisis
By Sue Sturgis
A coalition of 154 organizations sent a letter yesterday to the heads of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, asking them to take immediate action to address the public health crisis on the Gulf Coast triggered by last year’s BP oil spill.
The groups that are part of the coalition include public health, environmental and fisher advocates from across the United States, as well as faith-based organizations.
“We believe action must be taken immediately to help the people of the Gulf coast who are currently suffering health impacts and those who will become ill because of the continuing impacts of the BP oil disaster,” the letter stated.
The groups are asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to create a Gulf Coast Health Restoration Task Force including members of the affected communities.
They are also calling for implementing the national oil spill commission’s health recommendations. Noting that current law lacks the ability to address health hazards from oil spills, the commission’s final report called for long-term tracking of responders’ health and community health in affected areas. But it also said that such research “cannot overshadow the need to provide immediate medical assistance to affected communities.”
In addition, the letter called on the agencies to publish data sheets on health effects from mixing oil and chemical dispersants as well as any other products used in response to the spill, and to comprehensively restore the region’s health, economy and environment.
As Facing South reported in “Poisoned in the Gulf,” our recent week-long investigative series on the post-BP spill health crisis, there are widespread accounts from throughout the region of health problems linked to the disaster, which resulted in the release of some 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf as well as the spraying of almost 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants, both of which are known to damage human health.
Among the symptoms being reported by oil cleanup workers and residents of coastal communities are respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders, vision and memory problems, skin conditions, and bleeding from the rectum and ears.
“This was an unprecedented environmental disaster with never-before-seen quantities of toxic crude oil and dispersants released into our Gulf environments,” said Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper Paul Orr. “It is unfathomable that the government has not yet acted to help those that have become ill.”
Letter to Administrator Jackson and Secretary Sebelius
Tue, 2011-05-24 13:16 | by Waterkeeper Alliance
Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency
Chair, Eco-System Restoration Task Force
United States Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20460
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
May 24, 2011
Dear Administrator Jackson and Secretary Sebelius,
The below signed organizations would like to express our concern about the growing health crisis on the Gulf coast. We believe action must be taken immediately to help the people of the Gulf coast who are currently suffering health impacts and those who will become ill because of the continuing impacts of the BP oil disaster. Specifically, we are writing to ask for the creation of a Task Force for health restoration to find and implement appropriate solutions to the growing health crisis on the Gulf coast.
We are asking you for:
• Comprehensive restoration. Our health, economy, and environment are interconnected and solutions must reflect this.
• A Gulf Coast Health Restoration Task Force that includes community members with decision-making authority to address our long and short-term health needs.
• The implementation of the Oil Spill Commission Report Recommendations on health. The Oil Spill Commission stated that EPA should develop distinct plans and procedures to address human health impacts during a Spill of National Significance (See pages 38-39).
• The publication of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) type documents containing lists of potential synergistic health effects of exposure to the combination of oil, dispersants, oil and dispersants combined, any natural and/or bioengineered bacteria, and any other chemical or “natural” product used in response to the BP spill.
As you know, between April 20 and July 15, 2010, it is estimated that 1.84 million gallons of Corexit 9500 and 9527 was applied to BP crude oil—1.07 million were applied to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and 771,000 gallons were applied subsurface to the wellhead. For every 93 gallons of oil discharged, one gallon of dispersant was applied. The amounts of crude oil discharged and toxic dispersants released are unprecedented and it was people of the Gulf coast who were the first responders to the BP oil disaster and continue to live in the most heavily impacted areas.
There is no understanding of what this toxic cocktail has done and will continue to do to the health of those living on the Gulf coast. Though the oil discharged for 87 days, communities are still reporting continued dispersant spraying, watching oil continue to wash up on our shores, and seeing devastating impacts on our marine life. One year after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the people of the Gulf coast are still in need of proper diagnosis, treatment, and medical monitoring.
Currently, there is no government forum for those that are suffering from and concerned about the short and long term health impacts to share their stories and solutions, and from which to expect guidance and action. These concerns are therefore being expressed at other government-sponsored meetings, from the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force to NOAA’s NRDA commenting session, and all the formal and informal listening sessions in between that are taking place across the Gulf coast. We cannot adequately move forward on these important ecosystem recovery and restoration issues while the health of our people is not being adequately addressed.
Making our communities whole again includes helping every man, woman, and child who has become and will become sick as a result of the BP Oil disaster. Restoring our environment also means restoring our community’s health.
We look forward to hearing back from you on this very important issue. Please contact Tracy Kuhns by phone at 504-289-7162 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marylee Orr by phone at 225-588-5059 or by email at email@example.com to discuss this matter further.
Atchfalaya Basinkeeper Advocates For Environmental Human Rights
Air Alliance Houston Alabama Coastal Heritage Trust
Alabama Rivers Alliance Alamos Riverkeeper
Alaska Community Action on Toxics Alaska Trollers Association
Altamaha Riverkeeper Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Assateague COASTKEEPER Asian Americans for Change
Association Of Family Fishermen
Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO)
Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper
Black Warrior Riverkeeper Boat People SOS
Bogota Riverkeeper Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER
Cahaba Riverkeeper Calhoun County Resource Watch
Cartagena Baykeeper Casco Baykeeper
Central Huallaga Riverkeeper Center for Fair Housing.
Center For Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ),
Centro para la Sustentabilidad “Incalli Ixcahuicopa”, Universidad Autónoma
Children’s Environmental Protection Alliance NGO
Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper Citizens Against Toxic Exposure
Coastal Women for Change Cook Inletkeeper
Coosa Riverkeeper, Inc. Colorado Riverkeeper
Columbia Riverkeeper Commercial Fishermen of America
Community Development Task Force Inc
Countywide Family Development Center, Inc.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network Disaster Accountability Project
Earth Day Network Emerald Coastkeeper
Environmental Health Fund Environmental Health Strategy Center
Fannie Lou Hamer center for change Federation Of Southern Cooperatives
Fishing Partnership Health Plan Flint Riverkeeper
Florida Wildlife Federation Fraser Riverkeeper
French Broad Riverkeeper Fresh Fish Live Bait Co
Galveston Baykeeper Global Community Monitor
Global Green Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association
Greater Birmingham Ministries Greenpeace US
Guardians Of The Gulf Gulf Change
Gulf Islands Conservancy
Gulf Organized Fishermen In Solidarity and Hope (GO FISH)
Gulf Restoration Network Gunpowder Riverkeeper
Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. Haw River Assembly
Haw Riverkeeper Housatonic River Initiative
Immaculate Heart Community Development Corp. Inc.
Indian Riverkeeper Indiana Toxics Action
Interfaith Power & Light
Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw
Karen Bowman & Associates LA Oystermen Association
Levees.Org London Canalkeeper
Loretto Earth Network Louisana Bayoukeeper
Louisiana Bucket Brigade Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Louisiana Shrimp Association Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
Lower Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Kentucky Environmental Foundation Magdalena Baykeeper
Mayday New Orleans
Mary Queen Of Viet Nam Community Development Corporation
Mercy Housing & Human Development
Milwaukee Riverkeeper Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities
MS Coalition For Vietnamese-American Fisherfolks And Families
Natural Resources Defense Council Neuse RIVERKEEPER® Foundation
NOLA Emergency Response North Gulfport Community Landtrust
North Sound Baykeeper Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Ogeechee Riverkeeper Ouachita Riverkeeper
Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Patuxent Riverkeeper
Quad Cities WATERKEEPER Qiantang River Waterkeeper
Raritan RIVERKEEPER RFK Center For Justice And Human Rights
Sabine Riverkeeper San Francisco Baykeeper Emeritus.
Satilla Riverkeeper Savannah Riverkeeper
Shenandoah Riverkeeper Sierra Club
Silent No More Ministries Silver Valley Community Resource Center
Silver Valley Waterkeeper SouthWings
Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc
Southern Shrimp Alliance Spokane Riverkeeper
Steps Coalition St. Johns Riverkeeper
Surfrider Foundation Tennessee RIVERKEEPER
Terrebonne Readiness & Assistance Coalition (TRAC)
Texas Injured Workers Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
The Delaware Riverkeeper The Praxis Project.
The Solution To Pollution Project
The Zion Travelers Cooperative Center, Inc,
Tijuana Waterkeeper Tri-Coastal Community Outreach, Inc
Treasure Coast Environmental Defense Fund
Turkey Creek Community Initiatives
United Commercial Fishermen of America
United Church of Christ (Justice & Witness Ministries)
United Houma Nation
United Louisiana Vietnamese American Fisherfolk
Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Upper Watauga Riverkeeper
Vaytka Riverkeeper Waccamaw RIVERKEEPER®
Waterkeeper Alliance Western North Carolina Allliance
West Virginia Headwaters Waterkeeper White Oak-New Riverkeeper.
Wings Of Care, Inc. Yadkin Riverkeeper, Inc.